Sunday, February 12, 2012

"Chronicle" is the kind of film that explains why I love superheroes so much

"Chronicle" is one of those films that owes its existence to some kind of freak miracle. It has no big stars, it's not based on any particular source material, but it has some of the most spectacular visuals I have ever seen in a motion picture about people with superpowers. But far more importantly than that, it's not a simple story about heroes versus villains. It's the story of a bunch of normal teenagers who get superpowers and what happens next.

Unlike most films like this though, the characters never go through any transition into the dashing world of capes and superheroism. Instead, they just sort of have fun with their powers for a while. Sure, everything goes wrong later on, but the sheer wonderment of what it would be like to have these powers, and examining all of the fun everyday things you could do with them, is what sets it apart from other 'superhero' films (I hasten to use that word though, because its arguable that there aren't any heroes in this film, in the traditional sense). It's the sort of thing I'd spend hours considering while playing around as a child.

The characters obtain the power of telekinesis from a mysterious alien artifact and throughout the course of the film, the intricacies of that one simple ability are explored. They can move objects with their mind, form shields around their bodies to make their skin impervious to harm, and (best of all), they can fly by pushing and pulling themselves into the air with the force of their power. The film follows a fairly strict pseudo-science though, in so far as the powers exist within the boundaries of the other real-life factors that would play into their use. For example, the guys can fly, but because it's so cold above the clouds, they have to wear heavy coats and gloves. One quick note about the flying in this film is that it is far and away the greatest flying scenes realised in a motion picture. The characters aren't just seen taking off, landing and lying in front of a blue screen (like in the Superman movies), they're seen ducking, rolling, hovering and dancing gracefully through the clouds. It's absolutely breath-taking and it never, ever looks like CGI fakery. You will believe a man can fly.

The film's plot deals with the interesting ramifications of how power can corrupt and unfortunately, the lead character Andrew eventually adopts the belief that as his power is greater and exceeds that of normal humans, that they are below him; he goes on a rampage (resulting in the greatest superhero/villain fight since Superman II). It's just a really convincing deterioration that makes complete sense in the context of how this sort of thing would happen to a person as socially and emotionally broken as Andrew Detmer.

The film's not perfect and some of the young actors aren't necessarily the most gifted actors. Sometimes the screenplay has slightly shaky dialogue as well as certain lines that border too close to hipster pretentiousness. Finally, some people might be a tad offended by the film's use of 'found footage'. The entire film is shown to use through the lens of cameras either wielded by the actual characters, or security cameras in the background. This is mostly explained by Andrew's desire to record everything that goes on in his life (followed by his desire to 'chronicle' the entire use of their newfound powers), but like a lot of mockumentary sitcoms (The Office, Modern Family, etc), some of the explanations given for the presence of a camera are a bit far-fetched.

Ultimately though, on a very personal level, "Chronicle" is an immensely satisfying film that fully realises hours of childhood musing about what having superpowers would really be like. The film is probably best described not as a 'superhero film' but rather a 'superpowers film' and it's an excellent one at that.

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